I guess Christians in countries like Iraq, Pakistan, or Egypt might be having a cynical laugh today if they keep in touch with antics in the West, while facing real persecution at home. Indeed, atheists in these countries should be laughing as well. For former Archbishop Carey, other clerics, and predictable sets of MPs and newspapers to talk as if prayers on the official timetables of councils or Parliament were anything to do with the values of Christianity, rather than with keeping up a shallow pretence of official religion in a country which does not even understand its irreligion (not to be confused with secularism), would be disgusting if it were not so pathetic. The health of any religion has to do with how many people simply get on with communicating with the God they actually believe in, not with politicians pretending allegiance to a faith and values which the wider society they deal with takes little notice of anyway. The argument about sustaining ethical values by these performances is a sociological argument, not a religious one, and not a very good sociological argument at that.
In reality, the National Secular Society are colluding with the church establishment in carrying on the pretence of official Christianity by claiming they are fighting power and privilege. That claim still had some substance to it when the NSS was founded in Victorian times. Now it is almost as hollow and shabby a pretence as that of the so-called ‘Christians’ who cry persecution and ‘on the ropes’ at a judge ruling that official schedules cease to make meaningless gestures. No wonder secularist and humanist societies struggle to draw any active support.
If either Christians or atheists want to get our debt-ridden, pretentious, and morally confused society thinking about something serious, they would do better to open a debate on whether God can truly be believed in, and how moral values may be grounded if he cannot, rather than continue with an atrociously bad play.